Betsy O'Donnell Sensei

Betsy O’Donnell Sensei

Chief Instructor – ASU Godan

I think of the dojo as a place to authenticate my values. The Dojo is where we put our belief systems on the line and work on becoming better people. We learn to respond to an attack in a way that is ethical and consistent with our morals. Movement with a partner does not lie. There is immediate feedback when something feels right or wrong. It’s an extremely personal and productive practice, if you pay attention.

My experience in training with top level instructors in Aikido and my study of Karate Do has allowed me to come to a deep understanding of the balance between a solid martial background and the true purpose of Aikido: a way of generating peace in ones’ self and ultimately peace in the world.

I see Aikido as a way of making sense of the universe and our place in it, to make sense of my life. I am immensely grateful for the teaching I received in Seattle and for the experiences I received in ukemi.


O’Donnell Sensei began studying Aikido in 1989 under the instruction of George Ledyard Sensei, 7th Dan Aikido. In 1992 she joined Emerald City Aikido, where she continued her training under Joanne Veneziano Sensei, 6th degree black belt. Veneziano Sensei awarded Betsy her 1st degree black belt in 1993 and her 2nd degree black belt in 1996.
In 1997 O’Donnell Sensei became Assistant Chief Instructor of Aikido Northshore for Lee Crawford Sensei, 6th degree black belt, where she stayed as a professional instructor until 2009. She was awarded her 3rd degree black belt from Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan in 2005, and 4th degree in 2011, and 5th degree in 2020, both from Saotome Shihan.
From 2000-2003, in addition to her teaching responsibilities at Aikido Northshore, O’Donnell Sensei headed the Bastyr University Aikido Club. Her experience at Bastyr helped in cultivating her understanding of the healing aspect of aikido and aided in developing the organized and thoughtful teaching method she continues to this day.


Several teachers have been invaluable inspirations to O’Donnell Sensei and continue to generate never ending feelings of gratitude and joy. My main sources of inspiration and guidance come from Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, Motomichi Anno Shihan, Mary Heiny Sensei, Wendy Whited Shihan, and Lee Crawford Sensei. Sensei’s Patty Saotome, George Ledyard, Rasso Hultgren, Linda  Holiday, Jan Nevelius and Tom Read have also had a tremendous influence on her practice.


Prior to O’Donnell Sensei’s Aikido training she studied Seido karate for 5 years under Ian Harris Sensei, a direct student of Mas Oyama and Tadashi Nakamura Shihan.